kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (9)

Kale, Caesar!

kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (9)My favorite way to eat kale is not new or trendy – I like it cooked tender and until it’s ​no longer bright green. But on a hot day or for company or a potluck, kale Caesar is refreshing and a little fancy.

Kale salad is trendy right now, and kale Caesar, specifically, is very Vermont chic.

Raw kale is a nice alternative or addition to lettuce in a salad – especially if you already have kale and don’t want to buy lettuce or salad greens. Plus, making croutons for Caesar salad is a good way to use up stale bread.

For eating raw in salads, choose fresh kale with smaller leaves. The flavor tends to get stronger as the leaves mature on the plant or in your fridge. Have a lot of older kale sitting around? Rip off a piece and see what it tastes like. A braise with plenty of salt, garlic, bacon fat,​ and a splash of leftover wine might be a better choice than a salad.

To prepare kale for any salad, pull the stems off and break leaves into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle them with a little salt and oil and squeeze them with your fists until the leaves get wilted and soft. People call this “massaging” the kale but I think that sounds weird. Add dressing and other ingredients and serve!

Here, we’re going to make Caesar salad with dressing and croutons from scratch. If you prefer, you can always use store bought croutons and/or Caesar dressing, but don’t be put off by the fairly straightforward  process of making your own. You’ll build kitchen skills and have a better end product.

–Bethany Fleishman, Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this summer for our Valley Food & Farm program.

Photo credits: Julia A. Reed

Kale Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
Recipes adapted from Tyler Florence and from Natasha’s Kitchen

Ingredients

1-2 bunches green or lacinato/dinosaur kale

freshly grated Parmesan, or any hard sharp cheese from a local farm

Croutons
2 cups of stale bread, cubed or torn into chunks, crusts left on

2 T unsalted butter

2 T extra virgin olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves, smashed or minced

1 T fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1 t dried thyme

1/4 t salt

1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Dressing
4 anchovy fillets or 2 t anchovy pasteblueberry fool credit Julia A Reed (5)

1 clove garlic, smashed or minced

1 lemon, very well squeezed

1 yolk from a fresh local egg (save the white in the freezer to add to scrambled eggs or to make cakes or meringues)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or any hard sharp cheese from a local farm)

freshly ground black pepper

salt

Make the croutons first:butter herbs cooking credit Julia A Reed
1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter, olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme, and pepper over medium heat until butter is melted and bubbly. Set aside and let the flavors infuse into the oil. (Wash the kale and pat dry while you wait.)
2. Drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture evenly ocroutons kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (1)ver the bread cubes and toss until they have an even coating of oil.
3. Spread the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375˚F for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown and crunchy. Set aside to let cool.

Make the dressing next:
Blend the anchovies, garlic, egg yolk, and lemon juice for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth (use an immersion blender in a tall mug or wide-mouth canning jar). With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify it. Stir in the Parmesan and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Season, to taste, with salt and set aside. Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away.blueberry fool credit Julia A Reed (13)

Assemble the salad:
Pull off the kale stems and break leaves into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle a little salt and olive oil/salad oil over the leaves and squeeze them with your fists until the kale gets
somewhat wilted and soft. Add enough dressing to coat the salad to your liking. Add the croutons and some extra Parmesan and toss the salad well.kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (7)

Eat it now or eat it tomorrow. The kale holds up well with dressing and a night in the fridge, but leave off the croutons until serving.

Warm Kale and Cheese Dip

Kale

Warm Kale and Cheese Dip

courtesy of My Recipes.com

Ingredients

5 bacon slices, chopped
1 pound fresh kale, stemmed and finely chopped (about 1 bunch)
1/2 medium-size sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (4 1/2 oz.) shredded Asiago cheese
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (4 1/2 oz.) shredded fontina or Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Assorted crackers and crudités

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often, 6 to 7 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 Tbsp. drippings in Dutch oven. Sauté kale, onion, and garlic in hot drippings 7 to 8 minutes or until onion is tender. Add wine, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until particles loosen from bottom of Dutch oven.

2. Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in Asiago cheese, next 4 ingredients, and kale mixture. Spoon into a lightly greased 1- to 1 1/2-qt. baking dish.

3. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is hot and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes; top with bacon. Serve with crackers and crudités.

Squash Dip

Holiday Appetizers: Squash, Kale, and Onion Dips

The entertaining season is upon us and here are 3 dips you can bring to your company pot luck or your neighborhood gathering that use foods you can find at farmers’ markets in winter. Another tasty appetizer to share is Quick Kimchi using local cabbage. Celebrate the season with local food!

 

Squash Dip

Savory Butternut Squash Dip

by Alexandra Kazimir, RAFFL

Often prepared mashed with maple syrup or brown sugar, winter squash is delectable. I love transforming this sweet, nutty squash into a savory dip, that also boasts of the versatility of butternut.  By utilizing savory spices, such as a curry, and the subtle sweet earthiness of nutmeg, the natural sweetness of the butternut is intensified. This dip makes a lovely spread for sandwiches, pasta sauce alternative, or a simple appetizer with crackers or toasted baguette (top with chopped walnuts or toasted pumpkin seeds to dress it up for the holidays).

Ingredients:

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 c roasted butternut squash
  • 1/2 c soft, tangy cheese (quark, goat cheese, yogurt)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder (add more for a punchier dip)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 2-4 Tbsp water to thin

Cooked squash

Directions:

  • Cut, peel, and de-seed squash. Chop into 1-2″ cubes.
  • Drizzle squash with olive oil. Roast for 35 minutes at 400-425 degrees F on a lined baking sheet.
  • Add cooled squash, cheese, oil, nutmeg, and curry powder to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice or vinegar. Add water to thin mixture until desired consistency is reached.

Transfer to a bowl and serve with a drizzle of olive oil. This dip is delicious served simply with crackers; use it as a sandwich spread, or even as a pasta sauce!

The flavors continue to develop and intensify as the dip sits, so it will be even tastier the next day. If possible, make it ahead of time, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (for up to a week).

Kale

Warm Kale and Cheese Dip

courtesy of My Recipes.com

Ingredients

5 bacon slices, chopped
1 pound fresh kale, stemmed and finely chopped (about 1 bunch)
1/2 medium-size sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (4 1/2 oz.) shredded Asiago cheese
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (4 1/2 oz.) shredded fontina or Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Assorted crackers and crudités

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often, 6 to 7 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 Tbsp. drippings in Dutch oven. Sauté kale, onion, and garlic in hot drippings 7 to 8 minutes or until onion is tender. Add wine, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until particles loosen from bottom of Dutch oven.

2. Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in Asiago cheese, next 4 ingredients, and kale mixture. Spoon into a lightly greased 1- to 1 1/2-qt. baking dish.

3. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is hot and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes; top with bacon. Serve with crackers and crudités.

 Root 5 onions

Caramelized Onion Dip

courtesy of Food and Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 25 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring, until the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Let the onions cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
  2. Transfer the onions to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, mix the sour cream with the cream cheese, parsley, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Stir in the onions and season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with chips, crackers, or veggies.

The onion dip can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

024

Holidays = Local + Healthy

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Well, at least it’s easy when it comes to getting local food and incorporating that into a healthy diet.

Now it is almost winter and the once abundant local offerings of dewy lettuces, ripe berries and fragrant tomatoes at the farmers’ markets have dwindled to practically nothing after the first frost. Add to that the challenge that the holidays can bring when you are trying to eat clean, healthy and whole foods and things begin to look dim indeed.

But never fear, we have strategies. And ideas. And a recipe. Okay, we have two recipes. Because it isn’t Everyday Chef without a recipe (or two)!

Chard

Eat Your Greens

Cabbages, collards, chard, kale and mustards are just a few local greens easy to find this time of year. Incredibly healthy, these greens are frost-hardy and often get a touch sweeter as the cold sets in. Although a bit toothsome for a raw salad, kale dressed with a favorite vinaigrette and allowed to mellow out in a bowl for an hour will be delicious and tender with crunchy, toasted seeds, thinly sliced red onion and chopped apples. Throw in some fresh goat cheese, feta or cheddar and you have a satisfying and beautiful side dish that is fit for the holiday table.

Another trick to bring out the amazingness of these cold loving greens, is to cook them. Cabbage cut in wedges, lightly browned in a tablespoon of olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then braised in liquid (stock, cider, etc), turns out a melt-in-your-mouth sweet dish that pairs beautifully with roasted meats and vegetables. Try caraway or fennel seeds for an added dimension of flavor. Collards are underappreciated, but when cooked until tender and dressed with onions, salt and pepper, they yield a buttery, tender mouthful that begs for slow cooked beans, a bit of bacon and a cold glass of cider – perfect for welcoming the New Year.

Parsnip

Get Back to Your Roots

By the time the colors on our trees are but a memory and stick season shoulders its way in before the snow, I am ready the quintessential group of winter vegetables in Vermont, root veggies. Root vegetables can be found from your local farmer throughout the winter and well into spring. They store beautifully and when all the fresh eating veggies are long gone under the drifts of snow, we can dig out beets, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, turnips and onions. At Thanksgiving, I like to offer a warm bowl of whipped turnips with sage, a less calorie laden alternative to our favorite mashed potatoes. A regular favorite in our house during the cold months is to chop a variety of root vegetables, toss with sliced onions, olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast on a sheet pan in an oven at 375F until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh parsley and you have a delicious and healthy side dish for roasted meats or to use leftover in salad or soups.

Color Me Squash…Winter Squash That Is

With their gorgeous colors and shapes, thick skins that equate to long storage and nutrient rich flesh, winter squashes are the stars of winter eating. Butternut, pumpkin, acorn, delicata, kabocha, and hubbard to name but a few, can be turned into mashed mounds of orange deliciousness, thick and creamy bisque-like soups, roasted for side dishes or stuffed with a million different things and turned out as a centerpiece on the holiday table. The key to cooking with squashes is to have a sharp and sturdy knife to cut through the tough skin and use a light hand with cream, butter and salt so that the various and unique flavors of the different varieties can really shine through.

Strategize Ahead and Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

The holidays are meant to be a celebration and food is often central to these gatherings. You may find yourself in a situation where your choices are being made for you and rather than get too caught up in the details, allow yourself to indulge and appreciate the bigger picture of being with others in a joyful way. In the meantime, strategize ahead when you can – eat a healthy meal ahead of your gathering, drink lots of water and keep your portion sizes in check.

And in honor of the recently past Halloween and my family’s ongoing fascination with the zombie apocalypse, remember don’t eat the locals, but DO eat local!

Stuffed Pumpkin

Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed with Many Good Things

Serves approximately 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish. Can double the recipe for a larger crowd!

Ingredients:

1 small pumpkin, about 3lbs

Salt and ground black pepper

1 ½ cups bulghur or brown rice, cooked

1 ½ cups chopped apples

¼ cup sharp cheddar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 tsp each dried rosemary and parsley (or 1 T each of fresh, chopped)

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

4 T shredded parmesan, divided into two parts

⅓ cup of vegetable stock or milk

Directions:

Center the rack in an oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish large enough to hold the pumpkin(s) with parchment paper. Keep in mind that you may need a bit more room to maneuver a spatula in case you want to serve the pumpkin on a different dish.

With a sharp and sturdy knife, carefully cut the top ¼ or ⅓ off from your pumpkin, like you are making a jack-o-lantern. Set aside the top. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, leaving a cavity that can be filled. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the next 8 ingredients, setting aside 2 T of parmesan. Pour half of the measured liquid on the mixture and toss to coat. Add more liquid as needed so that the stuffing is moist, but not swimming.

Spoon the stuffing into the pumpkin until filled to the top. Any leftover stuffing can be baked separately in a dish. Set the pumpkin in the parchment lined dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top of the stuffing. Put the pumpkin top on and bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 2 hours. About 20 to 30 minutes before it is done, remove the pumpkin top so the stuffing can brown.

You can serve the pumpkin straight from the baking dish or for a more elegant presentation, using a steady hand and a sturdy spatula, transfer the whole pumpkin to a serving dish. Cut into wedges and serve!

Notes: Pumpkin seeds can be cleaned and roasted with a little olive oil. All the vegetable bits, including the pumpkin pulp, can be added to a pot with water, brought to a simmer for several minutes and strained for a delicious vegetable stock.

Cooking Variations:

  • Almost any winter squash can be used in place of the pumpkin, with roasting times varying. Smaller or elongated squashes (like delicata or butternut), can be sliced in half and the cavities filled.
  • Think of this recipe as a guideline and try variations. For example, in place of the bulghur or rice, try pieces of whole grain stale bread. Or dried cranberries or apricots for the apples. Try pairing sage with chevre or mix in feta, mozzarella and swiss. This stuffing also pairs well with cooked sausage or bacon if you would like to add meat and nuts are delicious for additional protein and healthy fats.

 

Whipped Turnips with Leeks and Sage
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

4 large turnips, peeled and cubed

2 medium red potatoes, cubed with skin on

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly, soaked to remove sand/grit and then chopped finely

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp of dried sage

¾ cup milk

kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Fill a large pot with the turnips and potatoes. Fill with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender and soft. About 20 to 25 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil and butter and melt over medium low heat. Once melted, add the leeks and sage, salt and pepper and saute until the leeks are tender and the sage is fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer over low heat, infusing the milk with sage flavor.

Drain the turnips and potatoes, reserving about ½ cup of the liquid. Set that aside. Put the vegetables back into the pot they were cooked in, add the hot milk and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. If needed, add small amounts of the cooking liquid to the vegetables until the puree is silky, but still thick. If you prefer a chunky texture, mash roughly until mixed. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot or cold.

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL’s Everyday Chef

Kale Potato Fennel Hash1 credit Julia A Reed

Kale, Potato & Fennel Hash

Vermont Harvest of the Month (HOM) for November is kale! By now most people know how nutritious the ubiquitous cold season green is and how everybody should eat more of it. There are lots of great recipes for including kale in your everyday cooking – including a bunch of kid-friendly recipes HOM developed for Farm-to-School programs.

HOM Nov Kale

I love this recipe (that I found at RealSimple.com) for several reasons:

  • easy – with only 3 ingredient and one pan it doesn’t get any simpler.
  • great fall and early winter recipe I can make with all locally grown food!
  • can be a main dish for a lighter meal or a satisfying side dish.
  • this is really good!

 

Potato, Kale, and Fennel Hash
courtesy of Real Simple.com

Ingredients

  1. 1 medium bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces (about 10 cups)
  2. 3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  3. large bulb fennel, chopped
  4. tablespoons canola oil
  5. kosher salt and black pepper

FennelRed potatoes

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and fennel, season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden and tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the kale and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted, 8 to 10 minutes more. Serve with the hot sauce (optional).

Kale Potato Fennel Hash2 credit Julia A Reed

 

Elena peppers

Simple Ideas Preserving Your Food

It is October, and as the days inch towards winter, there is a frantic rush to harvest what is left in our gardens and find a place in the cupboards, pantries, coolers and freezers. You see it at the markets too, with displays stocked full and overflowing with fresh eating produce, cabbages, greens, gourds, squashes and roots. It is delightful!

Elena apples

My favorite season for cooking is autumn. The heat of the kitchen seeps out into the rest of our house, staving off the morning and evening chills that punctuate this time of year, while I happily chop, stir, simmer and bake the hours away, not only putting food on the table, but putting food “by” for the cold days of winter.

Beginning in September, we are making apple cider, sauce and butter, picking herbs and hardy greens for the freezer, grabbing garden tomatoes for ripening, freezing whole or making chutney and looking forward to the fall berry season. By October, we are picking what is left in the garden for storage in our makeshift root cellar and the various drawers where we can tuck every onion, potato and squash we have harvested or bartered for. By November 1, with only a few hardy vegetables that like the cold, we are putting beds away for the winter and preserving what we can.

There are many ways to preserve food; some are simple and some are not, but most everyone can preserve a good portion of food and stock their larders. With a few simple tools, some supplies and a range, see below for some ideas of how to preserve our favorite vegetables.

Elena chardFreezing: If you have plenty of freezer space, freezing your food is a fantastic way to preserve fresh food quickly, safely and with nutrition intact. Some foods require blanching or cooking, while others just need a quick rinse and an airtight seal.

 

  • Try freezing whole tomatoes, berries, apple slices, peeled cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped onions.
  • With a pot of boiling water and a colander, you can blanch (boil briefly) and drain greens like spinach, chard, kale as well as vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots before freezing in bags.
  • For herbs like parsley, cilantro and basil, process into a paste with olive oil and then freeze the resulting pesto/pistou into ice cube trays or roll into logs, wrap in parchment and plastic first.

Canning: There are two methods of canning and lots of great information on the interweb, magazine articles and in books to give you the details, but the main thing to remember is that high-acid foods (berries, citrus) can be canned using the water bath method and low-acid foods (most vegetables, meats) can be canned using the pressure cooker method. Check out this site for more information.

Dry Salting: Different from pickling, which uses a salt AND acid based brine, salting is an ancient and very simple way to preserve food. The salt brings out the moisture from food and makes it “inhospitable” to the microbes and bacteria that would normally cause spoilage. Lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, use a low salt concentration to not only protect against spoilage, but also to create an environment that welcomes gut-friendly bacteria. High salt methods of preserving create an inhospitable environment for ALL bacteria and is still used by some to preserve things like green beans.

  • Layer shredded carrots and zucchini, sliced onion, minced garlic with sea or kosher salt and pack tightly into canning jars with lids. “Burb” the jars everyday to prevent buildup of pressure. Refrigerate or store at 40F or less to stop fermentation and keep.
  • Make kimchi or sauerkraut out of cabbage, radishes, carrots and onions. Use a wet brine of salt and keep vegetables submerged and away from air.
  • Check out the site Home Preserving Bible for a great collection of tips, techniques and recipes on dry salting.

Elena canningSyrups and Shrubs: Both of these old fashioned methods work especially well for berries and other fruit, but I have had equal luck with tomatoes, herbs and spices too. Use them in beverages, dressings and marinades!

  • For syrups, mix together two cups of berries, one cup of water and one cup of granulated sugar in a pot. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour the syrup, solids and all, into a wide mouth canning jar and cap. Let cool completely before refrigerating.
  • For the old fashioned shrubs, make an infused vinegar then turn that into a syrup. Check out detailed, but simple, instructions at The Kitchn.

HerbsButters: An often overlooked way of preserving some herbs and fruits is by making compound butters. With sharp knife, you can make quick work of herbs and fruits, mixing and mashing them into softened butter. When done, roll logs of butter into parchment and freeze or put into ice cube trays and pop the frozen chunks into a freezer bag for easier storage.

  • Herb butter of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Call it Scarbo-butter Faire, just for fun.
  • Fruit butter of blueberry, cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt
  • Basil or cilantro butter mixed with garlic
  • Hot pepper butter with lemon rind

 

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL‘s Everyday Chef

cherry tomatoes with herbs

Easy Ways to Preserve the Harvest

When the garden is over producing, and the CSA share is overflowing, finding quick ways to store the harvest for the winter is handy. Here are a few tricks I use to save the overwhelming September abundance for winter.

Freezing kale

Freezing kale

We are lucky that kale grows so well in New England, but sometimes there is just too much kale! Freezing is an easy way to store the endless CSA bouquets of this wonderful super-food. I wash the leaves, spin them dry, rip up the leaves and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Pop the pan in the freezer for about an hour and then transfer the frozen kale to freezer bags for easy storage.

I mostly use frozen kale for smoothies – just add a handful to the mix. It’s an easy way to add a healthy punch to any blender concoction. Kale is also a great addition to soups and stews.

 

Dehydrated Cherry Tomatoes

Dried tomatoes

An easy way to preserve these candy-like orbs is to dry them. Cut them in half, arrange them cut-side up on a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, pepper, fresh herbs (optional), and liberally drizzle with olive oil. Dehydrate in a 200 degree oven for 5-7 hours. I put my dried tomatoes in a canning jar, adding enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes (while leaving an inch of head-space), and storing them in the freezer. In February a  jar of tomatoes in oil and a baguette are the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

cherry tomatoes with herbs Photo

 

 

220

Drink Your Greens

I have to admit, as much as I love cooking, at just about any time of day, sometimes I don’t do so well in the breakfast department. On mornings when I’m just trying to get out the door and perhaps the kitchen sink is still full of last night’s dishes (and this is more often than not, as I’m not the most efficient dish washer), I’ve resorted to a number of poor choices. Everything from a piece of whatever I’ve baked last – sometimes this isn’t completely terrible (bicottti) other times there’s no hope (cupcakes, pie, cookies) – while some days I just try to fill up on coffee and maybe a spoonful of peanut butter. But continuous consumption of strong, black coffee on an empty stomach will do a number on your digestive tract.

OK, I’m exaggerating a little. I was on a consistent oatmeal run for awhile and on weekends I take the time for eggs or fresh fruit topped pancakes. But for the past couple of weeks or so my breakfasts have consisted of green smoothies.

Before you click away in disgust, bear with me for a minute, especially as I tell you that these fruit and vegetable filled beverages don’t taste anything like spinach. Also of equal importance: they’re filling, as in I can last until lunch without starving.

And unlike some mornings, these drinks provide a healthy source of energy to get me going for the day. If breakfast really is the most important meal, then it makes sense to start off with foods that are actually going to have some nutritional value to offer. It’s also much easier to carry around a smoothie than a bowl or oatmeal, as I’m often walking or driving somewhere.

While a green smoothie isn’t a revolutionary concept, I have enjoyed the enhanced version that Katherine Natalia calls a “green thickie” over at greenthickies.com. Personally, that doesn’t sound like the most appetizing of names, so I’ll just stick with smoothie. But you should really check out the many many smoothie combinations she has posted about, as well as other topics like making your own coconut milk and peanut butter.

Her base recipe – which contains spinach (or any other green you like), also includes grains, nuts/seeds, liquid, bananas and an optional sweetener like dates – is great. It results in a nice blend of flavors and complete proteins. You can then customize with whatever additional flavors you like, as the many suggestions on Natalia’s site suggest.

<!—green smoothie—>

I like that I can quickly make this either in the morning or the night before. The recipe makes two servings, which means I only need to pull out my immersion blender once every other day – saving half of the smoothie in the fridge for the next morning. If you’re still using a traditional blender, that is fine, of course, but I certainly don’t need an extra, multi-pieced dish to wash.

Before I share the recipe, a few thoughts:

    • Frozen berries, if you choose to play around with the recipe, made this really watery. I’d suggest using fresh or well defrosted berries.
    • Surprisingly, I like the taste of the smoothie better with quinoa than oats. I’ve noticed that quinoa also keeps me feeling full longer (perhaps because of the extra protein it contains).<!—quinoa—>
    • Another surprise: Romaine lettuce works really well. Though you miss out on some of the extra nutrients from the spinach. I’m betting kale would be nice too.
    • Give dates a chance. I stocked up on dates awhile ago and then never got around to using them. They are excellent sweeteners, though, in baking as well.
    • Stick with the two bananas. Any less, and the smoothie isn’t all that thick. And I read once that the thicker a beverage is, the more it will tell your mind you’re full. In other words, a thin smoothie may not fill you up as well.

Green Smoothie

  • 2 cups water (or milk or dairy free milk like almond or coconut)
  • 1 cup oats (or grain like quinoa)
  • 2 cups greens
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup seeds or nuts

Blend everything together and enjoy. Then check out greenthickies.com for more ideas. Let me know what you’ve tried and recommend.

0091

Kale and Coconut Salad

Happy December, folks. With cookie fests and holiday parties in full blast it’s all too easy to indulge a bit too much. I believe we should enjoy these times without feeling overly guilty and yet, without waiting until next month to eat smarter. And yes, that is actually possible. Sometimes you just need to leave well enough alone – your grandmother’s pecan pie, perhaps – but there are other times we can eat a little wiser while keeping in mind the foods still available to us locally during the colder months..

Hence, the kale and coconut salad. As you might have heard, kale and coconut are two powerful health foods of late we should all consider incorporating more of into our diets.

Kale, an excellent winter green, makes a great salad base while the more fragile greens are out of commission. With just 33 calories per cup and high amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Potassium, it’s no wonder it has it’s own marketing campaign.

Coconut, on the other hand, is equally as impressive. Coconut products – water, oil, milk, flour and even sugar – are beloved by food the health conscious in recent times, despite the high amount of saturated fat. Turns out, saturated fat, in moderation, may actually be good for us – helping do to things like lower bad cholesterol levels while improving the good. Coconut also contains a ton of fiber and a fair amount of minerals and b vitamins. The form in which you eat coconut regulates the degree of nutrition, however, so keep that in mind. For the salad, look for it unsweetened, dried and shredded or flaked.

It takes no time to put this together, making it great to work onto your dinner plate or bring to a holiday party in place of an out of season, less fresh, and nutritious garden salad. This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks – Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson – I highly recommend checking it and her blog out.

Use any kind of kale, but I like the curly variety – which adds a good amount of crunchy texture after baking. Just rinse, then tear the leaves off the stems and into small to medium sized pieces. You’ll be left with the stalks, which you can save in the freezer for your next pot of stock.

Toss in a bowl with the coconut and some olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce or tamari.

Then spread it out over two baking sheets.

And put it in an oven preheated to 350F for 15-20 minutes, checking about halfway through. You want to bake it until the kale is crunchy and the coconut golden brown.

You can toss together with some more dressing at this point and serve. If you like kale chips, you’ll really enjoy this salad – great as a side or topped with your favorite protein.

Kale and Coconut Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4-6, as a side

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups kale, torn and removed from the stem
  • 1 cup shredded or flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a small jar, shake together the oils and tamari/soy sauce.
  3. Toss the dressing with kale and coconut in a large bowl.
  4. Spread the salad out onto two large baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, checking and stirring about halfway through. Kale should be crispy and coconut golden brown. Toss with additional dressing if you’d like and serve warm or at room temp. Best enjoyed the day it’s made.
kale-pesto

Kale Pesto

I diligently planted several basil plants a few weeks ago. A few days later a crazy hail storm arrived. Afterwards, my poor basil plants were diminished to nothing but stems. So I replanted. All along, I was motivated by dreams of pesto. Pesto on pizza, pesto on pasta, pesto on sandwiches and pesto on warm potatoes. Maybe even a bowl of pesto all by itself.

kale-bowl

Basil is a traditional ingredient of pesto, but it doesn’t have to be the only one. Translated from Italian, pesto means to crush or to pound. And if you’re an Italian grandma, you probably do your crushing and pounding with a mortar and pestle – not a food processor. But times have changed, and so should pesto.

Pesto, meet everyone’s darling green vegetable – kale. With kale absolutely everywhere these days, and at an extremely affordable price ($2 – $4 a bunch, on average) it makes good sense to transform a bunch into pesto, as long as you’re using a food processor, that is. I often find myself with more than enough kale and looking for ways to eat it that aren’t just another plate of greens, if you know what I mean.

Unlike kale, basil doesn’t have a strong, prominent flavor. It allows the other pesto ingredients – nuts/seeds, cheese, and garlic to really stand out. I like to change things up with the choice of nuts or seeds too. Pine nuts tend to be out of my price range so I opt for whatever I have on hand. Often, it’s sunflower seeds. I’ve also tried pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans and almonds. I think it’s personal preference. In the end, it all gets crushed together and hey, that means pesto, right?

While I’m advocating for kale based pesto today, you should experiment with different herbs and leafy greens.

kale-in-food-processor

Kale Pesto

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 1/2 cups pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (3 cups) kale
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Pulse sunflower seeds in the food processor until finely ground.
  2. Add kale, garlic and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add Parmesan and blend to combine.
  4. Taste and add more ingredients as needed to reach your desired consistency and taste.
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